Last year we reported that longtime Bungie composer Marty O’Donnell, who provided the iconic Halo theme as well as much of the score to Destiny, had been “terminated without cause.” The circumstances around the firing were hazy, but following the termination O’Donnell sued both Bungie and its CEO Harold Ryan.
O’Donnell won the lawsuit against Ryan for unpaid wages in July, and on Friday a court-appointed arbitrator ruled that Bungie must give O’Donnell shares in the company he worked with for so long. In addition to providing some closure to the year-long battle between O’Donnell and his former employer, the ruling also brings the issues between the two out into the open.
While Destiny was only released in 2014, the contract between Bungie and publisher Activision for a five-part franchise was signed in 2010. O’Donnell was tasked with composing music for “every application” of the franchise, according to VentureBeat. Rather than write music for each game as it was developed, Bungie COO Pete Parsons asked O’Donnell to create all of the music for the franchise at once, a work dubbed Music of the Spheres.
O’Donnell, who is justly proud of this music, which features collaborations with Paul McCartney, wanted to release Music of the Spheres as a standalone release, but Bungie had little interest in this. A further slight arose when Activision supplied its own music for the Destiny E3 2013 trailer. O’Donnell tweeted during the presentation that the music was not his and attempted to keep the trailer from being posted online.
This and further disagreements lead to Ryan suggesting that O’Donnell be fired. He was instead given a negative performance review and told that his behavior was “unacceptable.” While O’Donnell returned to work on music and sound design for Destiny, members of the team said he wasn’t contributing enough, and Ryan again suggested that he be fired. This time O’Donnell was fired, and five months later, Destiny shipped, albeit a year late.
Earlier this year O’Donnell founded his own game studio, Highwire Games, which he can now fully focus on with the lawsuits out of the way. “I’m happy this is over, and I’m ready to move on,” he said in an interview with GamesBeat.
Meanwhile Bungie and its CEO are surely relieved to have things settled with O’Donnell. Destiny: The Taken King, the latest expansion for the massively multiplayer shooter, launches on September 15.